“Snow day. School is cancelled.”
They are the words that kids wish for every year, especially at the first sign of flurries. Yet they often inspire trepidation and dread amongst parents.
While a day off from school is sometimes a much needed break for busy students and overworked teachers, parents can often be at a loss with what to do with this newly found free time. We talked to Parent Toolkit experts Michele Borba, Cathy Cartier, Jayne Greenberg and Danielle Kovach for their thoughts on how to make the most of a snow day.
According to teacher Cathy Cartier, the best way to start off a snow day is to sleep in late. “It’s really important, especially if you are in high school,” says Cartier. With early school start times and an increasing homework load, many teenagers struggle to get the recommended amount of sleep at night. A snow day provides the perfect opportunity to catch up on some much needed ZZZs. The Parent Toolkit’s grade-by-grade sleep benchmarks can help you determine if your child is getting enough sleep.
The downtime on a snow day is the perfect chance to get your family organized. Whether it’s having your kids clean out their backpacks or tackle a messy drawer, use the time as a way to get jumpstarted on your spring cleaning. Another great option is to encourage your children to go through their gently used clothes and toys and find items to donate. “Give each kid a card board box and for 5 minutes, go into the drawers and have them pull things that they don’t like or don’t use anymore,” says child psychologist Michele Borba. When the snow clears, donate those items to Goodwill or a local church or other donation center in your community.
Between sledding, building a snowman and having a snow ball fight, there are countless activities in the snow. Encourage your children to use their imagination and find creative ways to use snow. “When I was growing up, we had a lot more free time to play and use our imagination,” says Cartier. “I think that today’s kids are robbed of that.” For elementary school teacher Danielle Kovach’s family, their snow days include activities that she has been doing since she was young. “We have to have the good old fashioned snow fight. I have three boys. I have to hold my own with it.” They’ve also tried new ideas like filling up spray bottles with food coloring and making fun designs in the snow.
IN THE KITCHEN
When your family is stuck indoors, one of the best ways to occupy the time is to teach them something new, especially in the kitchen. Whether it’s baking or trying new healthy snacks, use the time together to bond over food. If you have the ingredients, Borba recommends teaching each child a different recipe. Not only will it allow each child to shine individually, but it also expands the number of dishes your children will know how to make in the future when they’re hungry. Cartier sees the time in the kitchen as a great way to build a stronger relationship with your children. She made cupcakes with her 7-year-old granddaughter during her last snow day. “She was excited to ice the cupcakes and even though she made a tremendous mess, it was a lot of fun. The beauty of it was just interacting with her and listening to what she had to say.”
RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS
A snow day offers the perfect opportunity to teach your children about the importance of random acts of kindness. Have an elderly neighbor? Gather your entire family and shovel their driveway or the sidewalk in front of their residence. Even little kids can participate. Just give them a big pan and tell them to go! You could also take over some of the fresh baked goods you made earlier in the day. As Borba notes, “It just takes 10 minutes to put a smile on someone’s face.” The most important thing is to do these activities together as a family.
Just because your family may be stuck indoors doesn’t mean that you have to abandon exercise. Jayne Greenberg, a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, suggests playing catch indoors with rolled up socks or trying indoor fitness activities like jumping jacks, crab walks and bear walks. You can even try playing games that require movement or throwing a dance party. Have your child pick out a song and see if your family can mimic each other’s dance moves. Anything that gets kids away from screens and moving should be considered a win. Still struggling with ideas? Greenberg also recommends creating an indoor obstacle course or hosting a scavenger hunt. Just remember, make it fun!
If you still have electricity, your children may ask to watch television, use the computer or play video games. While kids shouldn’t spend their entire snow day in front of a screen, Borba recommends using the downtime to have your children FaceTime or Skype with a few people they haven’t seen in a while. It’s the perfect opportunity to connect with other members of your family who may also be stuck indoors or reconnect with a friend who recently moved. If you decide to let your child use technology, Borba recommends setting a timer for about 20 minutes. Once the buzzer rings, have your child transition from their sedentary position into an activity that requires some form of exercise.
SNOW DAY SCIENCE
“My boys love science!” says Kovach. “On snow days, we look for different science experiments to do at home.” The Kovach family has tried everything from throwing a cup of water in the air and watching it freeze to measuring the snow accumulation throughout the day. Last year, Kovach and her boys tried to make ice marbles where they filled up water balloons and left them outside to freeze. While the experiment wasn’t actually successful, she says it taught her boys a valuable lesson. “These things are always trial and error.” Looking for other ways to incorporate learning into a snow day? Watch this video from our friends at NBC Learn about the Science of Snow.
Is there a birthday or other celebration coming up in the near future? Borba suggests using some of the downtime on a snow day to have your children think ahead. Using your kids’ creativity and different items you have around the house, have your children make a special present for the upcoming party. You can have your kids design their own wrapping paper by cutting sponges into various shapes and having them paint pieces of paper. Or have them trace around different cookie cutters and design each one differently with crayons or colored pencils.
MAKE THE MOST OF FREE TIME
A snow day is the perfect time to dust off your old jigsaw puzzles or board games. Working together can help build your child’s collaboration skills. If your son or daughter doesn’t have a hobby, a snow day might be the perfect time for them to pick up a new skill. From sewing and scrap booking, to dressing up and playing pretend, the extra free time is an ideal opportunity to have your child explore their interests. However, remember Michele Borba’s key piece of advice. “You don’t have to be a cruise director. If you do it all day long, you will want to raise a white flag by the end of it.” To avoid surrendering, Borba recommends a little planning and following the Boy Scout motto – “Be Prepared.”
Have additional ideas that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.